Draft German Costs Legislation

The German Federal Ministry of Justice has published a PDF file containing the draft of a statute to modernize Costs Law (in German; on 28th August, entitled ‘Einfach, transparent und zeitgemäß’). With regard to translators and interpreters, it says that the principle of ‘compensation’ is to be replaced by ‘payment’ (translators and interpreters for the courts have till now been regarded as being ‘compensated’ for the time they have lost, rather than paid for work done). There is to be a new statute for translators, interpreters, expert witnesses and lay judges (ehrenamtliche Richter). There are to be clearly defined payment groups with fixed hourly rates, which are to be more closely approximated to free market rates (hmm, that will give them a wide field!). It sounds as if the range of rates is to be narrower, thus avoiding some of the customary disputes. Refer to ‘Zu § 11’ on p. 225 for more details (thanks to Chico Moreira).

Payment per line is to give way to payment for a number of keystrokes, that is, it is recognized that translations are done on computers and computers can make it easier to count text. And here it comes:

bq. Maßeinheit für die Vergütung soll die im Bereich des Übersetzerwesens
allgemein eingeführte Standardzeile sein, die sich aus 55 Anschlägen einschließlich der Leerzeichen zusammensetzt. Zwar vertritt die ganz herrschende Auffassung in Rechtsprechung und Kommentarliteratur die Meinung, Leerzeichen seien keine Schriftzeichen im Sinne des § 17 Abs. 4
ZuSEG, weil sie nicht der Kommunikation dienten und damit auch keine Übersetzungsleistung erforderten. Wegen der weitverbreiteten Akzeptanz der Standardzeile erscheint es jedoch angebracht, diesen Umrechnungsmaßstab aufzugreifen.

bq. The unit by which payment is measured is to be the standard line, which is generally recognized among translators, consisting of 55 characters, including spaces. The overwhelmingly prevailing opinion in case law [how many court cases have there been?] and in the commentaries takes the view that spaces are not characters in the meaning of section 17 (4) of the ZuSEG (Gesetz über die Entschädigung von Zeugen und Sachverständigen, Act on the Reimbursement of Witnesses and Expert Witnesses) because they do not serve communication [have these people tried written communication without spaces?] and therefore require no work on the part of the translator. However, in view of the widespread acceptance of the standard line, it appears appropriate to use this measure. [How condescending!]

However, if the translator or the costs clerk lacks the technology for this highly modern form of counting, counting by lines will still be possible in certain circumstances.

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